On her helmet during the Games in South Korea, Vonn wore the D.K. initials of her grandfather, who died last November, and the emotion seemed to overwhelm her following her final Alpine run.
Italy's Sofia Goggia won the women's downhill at the Winter Olympics Wednesday, making history with the first Olympic downhill gold for an Italian woman.
When it became clear that Lindsey Vonn would walk away from her last Olympic downhill with a bronze medal today and the finality of it began to sink in, her passion for the sport and its camaraderie shown through a flood of tears.
In eight injury-plagued years she has suffered nine injuries and undergone five surgeries.
She certainly didn't back down on the slopes.
"It's tough to contemplate this being my last Olympic downhill", she said. The 37-year-old Norwegian has seven career golds, four silvers and three bronze medals. But it's the perspective that I think is important.
But despite lengthy absences from the slopes, the United States skier has 13 more World Cup victories than any other woman in history and is five wins from equaling Ingemar Stenmark, who holds the men's record of 86 World Cup victories. Vonn placed third with 1:39:69.
Vonn said that the Games in Pyeongchang would "probably" be her last Olympic appearance, adding she was counting on "medical miracles" to extend her career. I wish I could keep going, you know?
Goggia wins Olympic downhill, Vonn third
She jarred her back in December previous year in the build-up to the Games, but recovered to compete in a World Cup race a week later.
It consists of two runs - a downhill in the morning, followed by a slalom in the afternoon - and is therefore the ultimate all-round test of a skier's speed and technical skills.
"I came here with one goal - to beat Lindsey", said Goggia, who had beaten Vonn in the Olympic test events on the same hill.
Vonn noted that she's leaving the competition standing tall. And then she was gone. "I wanted to win so much because of him, but I still think I made him proud and our family never gives up".
If she is still capable of winning and her knees are holding up, would Vonn really turn down the chance of one final push at the Games she loves so much? "It's so rewarding. Of course I would have liked a gold medal, but this is unbelievable and I am so proud", she told NBC. Maybe I just was a little bit too clean, maybe a little bit too precise with the line. I stand strong and I'm proud of what I represent and who I am.
"I remember when she won in Vancouver and I said I wish one day I can be there racing at the top", she said. But the 25-year-old racer seems to be enjoying the Korean snow and just four days earlier took silver in the women's super-G. I'm proud to have competed for my country.
But thanks to the wonders of modern technology that gave birth to portable cameras, you can get a glimpse of what it's like to traverse the downhill skiing course at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre in PyeongChang, South Korea.
"I feel really honoured to be racing with the greatest female skier of all time", said Goggia, who said she moved like a "samurai" during her run and who was labelled a "crazyhorse" by her coach. "I appreciate that she even asked me".